By Abbie Gruwell
Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee passed, along party lines, H.R. 5861, the Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS) for Success Act.
The bill is the House’s first attempt this year at reforming and reauthorizing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which expires at the end of September.
The House proposal extends the program for five years and limits the use of funds to families with monthly income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Since 2010, TANF has largely been extended through continuing resolutions instead of full reauthorization. H.R. 5861 authorizes the program at its current funding levels through FY 2023, but does not include an inflation adjustment.
It increases child care funding by 21 percent to $3.5 billion annually, and allows up to 50 percent of states’ allocations to be transferred to the Child Care and Development fund, child welfare (up to 10 percent), and workforce programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Members on both sides of the aisle showed concern about states using TANF funds to fill budget gaps elsewhere, but many states use the funds to support other welfare and workforce-related programs. The bill specifically would eliminate the current authority for states to transfer funds to the Social Services Block Grant.
One of the major changes is the provision requiring all work-eligible beneficiaries to work or participate in job training or community services, instead of the current 50 percent.
Universal engagement and improved case management were a theme in the discussions, including changing the core purposes of the program to focus more on employment and training and removing child care as a core purpose.
The bill requires each state to create a state plan, which must include information on how states will allow for a transitional benefit period for individuals who approach the welfare cliff. It also changes the way states are measured by eliminating workforce participation as the measure of success, which may allow more flexibility in how states measure employment success.
However, states that fail to meet program targets may face federal funding reductions.
The bill is expected to go to the House floor this summer, but the Senate has signaled that they may instead pass another extension without policy changes.
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Abbie Gruwell is the policy director for human services in NCSL's State-Federal Affairs team in Washington, D.C.